Yelena Isinbayeva got the Olympic gold and a world record; American Jenn Stuczynski got the silver and a lesson in humility.
And we now have a new rivalry that should make woman’s pole vaulting fun to watch for many more years to come.
Big poles and big mouths don’t go together. Stuczynski knows that now. Pole vaulting isn’t basketball or boxing. It’s far too graceful of a sport for the kind of trash-talk she doled out before the Beijing Games.
“I hope we do some damage,” she had said, “and, you know, kick some Russian butt.”
Isinbayeva is Russian but she understands English just fine. The greatest women’s pole vaulter of all time heard Stuczynski’s challenge loud and clear.
“I am not deaf,” she said. “It made me really angry.”
Isinbayeva is a bit like those supermodels who supposedly don’t get out of bed for anything less than a very lucrative photo shoot. Only when the bar has reached dizzying heights that most other vaulters can’t clear does Isinbayeva deign to take her first jump.
She’s just that good.
Monday night, her first jump was 4 meters 70 (15 feet, 5 inches). She soared right over. Seven of the 11 other vaulters had already dropped out by that point.
And so up the bar went, and up again. It’s that exquisite turning of the screw that makes pole vaulting so addictive to watch. Who’ll crack first?
Women’s pole vault has only been an Olympic sport since the Sydney Games in 2000. It was an instant crowd pleaser. Almost single-handedly thanks to Isinbayeva, the sport has grown by leaps and bounds since then. Stacy Dragila’s winning height in Sydney was 4.60 (15-1), which Stuczynski and Isinbayeva now sail over that in their sleep.
On Monday night, the last two hangers on dropped out with the bar at 4.80 (15-9), leaving Isi and Stu to fight it out for the gold alone.
The Russian won by KO. She cleared 4.85 (15-11). Stuczynski vaulted no higher than 4.80. Game over.
She wanted to give them more … and perhaps rub that American nose just a little deeper in the dirt.
It was showtime. Isinbayeva-time. And that meant a world record.
First, she broke the Olympic record—her own, from Athens four years ago— as an appetizer.
Then, the bar went to a height it’s never been before, 5.05 (16-6 3/4).
She got it on the last of her three tries. She was celebrating even before she had fallen back to earth. She screamed. Clutched her face. Screamed some more. Did a forward somersault. Grabbed a Russian flag from someone in the crowd and set off on a lap of honor.
And that whole time, Stuczynski was made to wait, sitting on a row of plastic chairs, until Isinbayeva had cleared the magic height. It was the 24th time that the Russian had set a world record; she generally likes to eke them out one centimeter at a time.
“I just wanted to prove who is the best at the Olympic Games.”
But she couldn’t resist one last little dig
“She must respect me and … know her position,” she said.
“Now she knows it.”
I'm glad. She really made the American eat her words hehehe.
Most Americans are such poor sport even the country of Jamaica became a target after Usain Bolt won the 100m with one internet toughie calling him a "monkey" at Foxsports comments section (he looked foolish in his celebrations but that's his right - to enjoy his moment). Bolt's fault? He intruded in the American domain - the 100 m dash. Of course, they wouldn't admit that instead they began citing the guy's celebration as "show boating" conveniently forgetting Team USA basketball players' antics are even worse!
So, Americans don't lose, they are just being cheated. No way - the only reason Jamaica is winning, is simple BALCO - THE STEROID FACTORY - was busted paving the way for more deserving people to win. By the way if the Chinese female gymnasts are really below sixteen (which I also believe might be true judging from the age manipulation they did to their youth basketball team). It is even more humiliating. Besides, the United States could've won but they clumsily bungled their routines. It's their FAULT. Serves them RIGHT!
Double standards. Hypocrisy. Boy, do they have that in abundance!